Evil Roman Emperors: The Shocking History of Ancient Rome’s Most Wicked Rulers from Caligula to Nero and More

by Phillip Bartag

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. As catchy as that aphorism is, it’s sadly untrue, even if it has a nice ring to it. The one thing Nero is well-known for is the one thing he actually didn’t do. But fear not, the truth of his life, his rule and what he did with unrestrained power, is plenty weird, salacious and horrifying.

And he is not alone. Roman history, from the very foundation of the city, is replete with people and stories that shock our modern sensibilities. Evil Emperors puts the worst of Rome’s rulers in one place and offers a review of their lives and a historical context for what made them into what they became. It concludes by ranking them, counting down to the worst ruler in Rome’s long history.

Lucius Tarquinius Suburbus called peace conferences with warring states, only to slaughter foreign leaders; Commodus sold offices of the empire to the highest bidder; Caligula demanded to be worshipped as a god, and marched troops all the way to the ocean simply to collect seashells as “proof” of their conquest; even the Roman Senate itself was made up of oppressors, exploiters, and murderers of all stripes. Author Phillip Barlag profiles a host of evil Roman rulers across the history of their empire, along with the faceless governing bodies that condoned and even carried out heinous acts.

Roman history, deviant or otherwise, is a subject of endless fascination. What’s never been done before is to look at the worst of the worst at the same time, comparing them side by side, and ranking them against one another. Until now.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this good read on Roman leaders back in the early days who were particularly evil. The book covers the creation of Rome and the selected worst of the worst like Caligula and Nero and many others through their reigns. Some even changed their names to distance themselves from past bad deeds. I always wanted to know more about these people, and this was a good way to get some knowledge on them. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Phillip Barlag, and the publisher.

Evil Roman Emperors

Publisher: Rowan & Littlefield – 235 pages
Publication: June 15th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS

About the author: Phillip Barlag is an Executive Director at World 50, a Morgan Stanley company which initiates and facilitates the most interesting and influential business conversations in the world. He is the author of The History of Rome in 12 Buildings and the acclaimed The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar, and his writing has been published in Fast Company, MIT Sloan Management Review, and ChangeThis.com, among others. He lives in the Atlanta, GA, area with his wife and three children.

5 thoughts on “Book Review ~ Evil Roman Emperors

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